While most students and faculty spent the first and only reading day of last semester studying and preparing for finals, several other faculty, staff and students decided to attend the fourth NC State Sexual Communication Fair in Caldwell Lounge hosted by Dr. Kami Kosenko and her sexual communication class.
Students from COM 498, Sexual Communication, worked all semester with their peers to create interactive and educational projects and booths about sex and communication that were presented in a science fair-style environment, complete with “sexpert” judges, delicious refreshments and fun-filled demonstrations.
“The goal of this fair is for students to take what they have learned in COM 498 to generate user-friendly material about sex,” said Dr. Kosenko, associate professor in the Department of Communication. “My favorite takeaway is how maturely and professionally students tackle and talk about these topics. They don’t just stand around and giggle, but instead they give detailed information about sexual trends and issues.”
She added, “Instead of relying on magazine covers, or popular television shows, students utilized evidence-based research to create their educational materials. Students looked to research in health and interpersonal communication to dispel myths around sexual and relational health.”
Although the event is informative, it is also a competition between groups to see who can receive the most votes from judges and attendees. In this case, the winning team automatically receives an A+ on the final exam.
This year, 15 booths represented several topics ranging from “Psychological Abuse Directed at College Women” to “Communicating about Pornography.”
One booth that attracted a significant amount of attendees was the “Come Bust a Myth” booth. Here, guests had the opportunity to pick a balloon with a sexual myth written on it, and then pop it to reveal the actual facts. For example, one balloon stated, “I will never get an STD.” After popping the balloon, it was revealed that 1 in 4 people have either had or currently have an STD, and 110 million people in the U.S. carry an STD and have the ability to pass it on to other people.
“We want people to come bust a myth and learn the actual facts,” said senior Kellie Ford in communication media. “For example, a lot of students think that porn is the ideal representation of sexual experiences, but that is not the case.”
Another interesting booth titled “Talkin’ Dirty” involved the sexual communication between couples and partners in a sexual relationship.
“Communicating effectively means being able to express your desires in bed,” said senior Casey Cooke in the public relations concentration. “We found that couples who talk about what they want or don’t want in bed are happier. A lot of people feel ashamed to talk about what they want in bed, and this can make a relationship suffer. But if you openly communicate, you can get what you want!”
Jennifer Dillon, a senior in the interpersonal, organizational and rhetorical communication concentration, said, “Sexual communication isn’t just about talking dirty either. It can mean talking about safe sex and abstinence, not just sexual desires.”
Senior Nicole Baez in public relations said, “I originally came to get points for Lambda Pi Eta, but I stayed because it was so interesting. The Talkin’ Dirty booth was the most interesting, and I found it fascinating that there was a great turnout with people openly talking about what can be deemed a ‘taboo’ subject.”
Other students from various backgrounds attended to learn more about the class as well as the information being offered at each booth.
When asked about her favorite booth, Dana Harrison, a senior in the media concentration, said, “I think the sexual consent booth was the most important because people need to learn more about sexual consent on college campuses. Actually, everything at this fair is important, and people need to know about it.”
The competition looked fierce, and each booth had to impress not only the attendees but the “sexpert” judges as well.
Dr. Elizabeth Craig, associate professor, had the pleasure of being one of these judges. She said, “The presentations have been extremely thoughtful and relevant to today’s culture. They have all been well researched, and I think that these students are giving great advice and information for safe and relevant sex practices for everyday life.
“Hosting a Sexual Communication Fair provides an opportunity for students to discuss important scientific findings about sexual and relational health, something they might not have had an opportunity to do before.”
A few hours after the event ended, the votes were tallied and a winner was revealed. Past winners created projects about sexual harassment, sex technology and contraceptives. This year’s winner: Sex in Music Videos!
Communication media seniors Marcus Blyden, Michael Brangle, Anderson Burrus, LeAnna West and junior Amanda Butschky, took home the A+ for their research.
“We focused on hip hop music because that is where the most sexual references are in music,” said Blyden. “In fact, adolescents who listen to hip hop music will hear 48 sexual content references a day. We think it is important that parents know about this in order to prevent sexual violence and aggression.”
Each group contributed excellent ideas to the fair, and attendees got to take home several goodies, including brochures, candy and, yes, even condoms!